By Wilson Ring
September 19, 2019
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The first two of an eventual 20 F-35 jets arrived Thursday at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington, the first Guard unit to receive the next-generation fighter.
Guard members and friends clapped as the planes flew over the airport for the first time Thursday afternoon, doing several flyovers after the three-hour flight from the factory in Fort Worth, Texas.
The delivery follows years of work and planning, as well as missions in the Guard’s previous aircraft, F-16s that flew continuously for weeks over New York after the Sept. 11 attacks and in combat tours in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
“Bringing the F-35 to Vermont secures our future for decades, and our country needs this airplane,” Col. David Smith, the commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, the new home to the F-35s, said after the planes arrived.
But for some members of the community, the arrival of noisier aircraft marks the failure of yearslong efforts to keep the Air Force from delivering the planes to an airport that sits amid residential neighborhoods and industrial complexes in the middle of Vermont’s most populous county.
Rosanne Greco, the former chair of the South Burlington City Council and a retired Air Force colonel, said she supported basing the plane in her home city until she learned by reading the Air Force’s environmental impact statement about how noisy the F-35 is and what she feels are the dangers of having a new, unproven weapon system at a suburban airport.
“All I had to do was read what the Air Force said about the impact it would have,” Greco said. “The evidence was overwhelming it would have a very negative effect on close to 7,000 people” who live near the airport.